Spark has been accused by Chorus of using a controversial sales practice known as "inertia sale" to encourage customers with copper-line home phones to switch to an alternative phone service that uses Spark's wireless network.
Spark has rejected the charge and says it is taking customers to a more modern and generally cheaper technology.
Chorus spokesman Steve Pettigrew said that Chorus was "deeply uncomfortable" with Spark's actions and had to ask "two or three questions" from lawmakers after concerns raised by his constituents.
Pettigrew said it appears that people were informed by Spark that the Chorus was pulling out its copper network, and that residential phone customers needed to switch to wireless technology.
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Pettigrew said there is no timetable for the closure of its copper network, which will remain available throughout the country for "at least" in the coming years.
Even so, the closures would only occur in areas where an alternative fiber optic was readily available, he said.
He understood that Spark was writing to customers giving people a date to "refuse" the outlet of the copper network.
"If you call, you will be informed that wireless is the future and that Chorus is shutting down the copper network and now would be a good time to migrate to new services."
If customers agreed, they would get a kit that would allow them to switch to a wireless phone service.
"If you do not respond until the date they will send one to you," he said.
Pettigrew believed it was inertia selling.
He said the approach was focused on customers who had only a landline instead of other services such as broadband.
"They tend to be older and if someone tells you to do it, you do it. I feel very uncomfortable that it's a method and an approach," he said.
Spark spokeswoman Lucy Fullarton confirmed that the company had initiated a new initiative to transfer some of its customers who had only one home phone with Spark "from a copper line service to a modern wireless solution."
"These customers are being transferred to a new wireless fixed-level plan, which comes with unlimited local calls, a two-phone starter pack, a modem, and a power unit for use in power outages, a transition dedicated to customer support. team, all at a monthly price below what most pay today for their copper service, "she said.
She agreed that there is still no timetable for the withdrawal of copper network services, but said the time has come "to start helping our customers with the transition, with an initial focus on those customers for whom the change should be relatively straightforward ".
If customers did not connect the wireless modem that was delivered to them, they would still be charged for the current plan, she said.
"If there are reasons why a customer can not move – like dependence on a special device, an alarm that does not work on wireless or any other special needs, then we will not move them while we discuss and evaluate other options with them," she said .
"In addition, there may be clients that may be considered vulnerable," for whom migration will need to be managed differently, but we intend to work with them on a migration plan that is tailored to their specific needs. "
Spark's wireless service costs $ 50 a month, while copper-line phone service costs $ 61.15 if a $ 4.95 maintenance fee – unnecessary with wireless broadband – is included .
If customers decided to "not proceed with this modified wireless fixed-line service," they would receive a "fully paid mail bag and requested the return of the connection kit," Fullarton said.
The lines mark a new front in a battle between Chorus and Spark over what Chorus has seen as Spark's aggressive wireless broadband market and Spark's undue negative comments on the performance and reliability of its broadband network. copper.
Spark has responded in the past that customers expressed greater customer satisfaction after switching from the Chorus copper network to their own wireless broadband network.
Pettigrew could not tell if Chorus was thinking of taking any action.
"But it's probably mostly up to individuals to take their concerns to consumer groups," he said.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment says that it is a violation of the Fairtrade Act of companies to send "unsolicited products or services – when you receive products or services that you have not requested or requested."
"The only exceptions are electricity and piped gas," the website says.
Fullarton said Spark would argue that the wireless device he was sending was not "unsolicited goods, which we understand to be involved in a situation of inertia of sale."
"This is because Spark already provides a fixed service for these customers [and] we are now modifying the way we deliver this landline service so that it is delivered to Spark's 4G network instead of the copper network, "she said.
"Customers are not required to purchase this kit with us – we have provided the kit so they can continue to receive Spark's existing fixed service."
Spark now explained in letters sent to customers that they did not have to pay for the equipment and that it was "in us and you do not have to pay for any damage unless you deliberately do the damage."
The letters said that if customers did not need the kit, they should contact Spark and she would arrange a courier for her return, she said.